Fight to the Finish

24 04 2012

These two teams may not be serious contenders for the 2012 NBA Championship, but a playoff bid could make the difference for each team’s future.

The Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz will face off Tuesday at 9:30 on TNT. This matchup has huge implications on the line for the final playoff spot in the West.

If the Jazz (34-30) beat the Suns (33-31), they are in. It’s that simple.

If the Suns beat the Jazz, they will need to also beat the West-leading San Antonio Spurs or need the Jazz to lose to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Why does this eighth seed matter when they’ll inevitably lose to the Spurs in the first round?

Both of these teams need the playoffs this year. Falling just short could send each team into a big hole.

The Jazz came out of the gate with a quick 9-4 start as Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap dominated the paint against all their opponents. Analysts started to jump on this team’s bandwagon after they beat the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers in consecutive games.

Even though Jefferson and Millsap continued to play great big-man basketball, their record slumped all the way to 17-19. Devin Harris stood out as one of the main problems, having one of his most inefficient seasons as the starting point guard.

Most people decided to scratch this team off up to this point, seeing them as a young squad like the Blazers that couldn’t remain successful for an entire season.

However, with a late season surge including their current three-game winning streak, these Jazz have jumped right back into playoff race.

This team has a budding coach in Tyrone Corbin and a young squad that has an overabundance of youth and potential. Moving forward, they could grow into a team that competes in the Western Conference playoffs.

If they want that to happen in the future, though, it starts right here and right now.

Take the Oklahoma City Thunder, for example. Two seasons ago, they squeezed into the playoffs as the eighth seed and got taken down by the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers. Even though they didn’t expect to defeat the reigning champs, this gave them the invaluable experience they needed against a top-tier opponent that helped them make the Western Conference Finals the next year.

A playoff spot for the Jazz could be an important step in the right direction for this growing group.

 

For the majority of this season, the Suns never seemed to be in serious contention to make the playoffs this year. In fact, they went the first four months of the season without making it above .500.

However, with a win against the Sacramento Kings on April 3, they held a record of 27-26 and became a topic of discussion once again.

Marcin Gortat has emerged as a dominant center, averaging 15.7 points and 10 rebounds on the season. Even though Nash increases the points statistics of every player that wears the same jersey, Gortat has shown potential to be a staple center in a league with a dearth of true big men.

The Suns need this even more than the Jazz. Of the seven Suns players that will be testing the free agent market this summer, only one matters.

Steve Nash.

The two-time MVP has become the face of this franchise and has remained committed to the town up to this point. Nash has the Suns management in his lap and has even been given the opportunity to be traded if he so desired. However, Nash plays his role as a basketball player and nothing else. (Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony don’t understand what I’m talking about.)

Without the playoffs this year, that gives Nash one more reason to go elsewhere in an attempt to obtain that ring he has never gotten. That gives Nash one more reason to go to South Beach and finally give the Big Three the point guard that could make that team unstoppable. With the playoffs, Nash might find enough loyalty inside to push through with the city that has fallen in love with him.

The mini-playoff match starts soon. These two teams will give every ounce of effort in their body into this match and leave it all on the line on that hardwood court.

Get ready.

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